1838 : Patriot War Along Detroit River Begins

January 1, 2023 all-day

The first attempt the Patriots made to invade Canada was in January 1838. A group of Patriots or Pirates, met on January 1, 1838, and they raised $135.00 and ten rifles to aid their cause.

Before dawn broke on January 5, about 20-25 Patriots crept to the Detroit jail where they seized jailor Thompson and his arms and ammunition. The next day they seized the schooner Ann and fortified with the arms from the Detroit jail and reinforcements of over 100 men, they set sail for Fighting Island across from Ecorse.

An English steamer chased the Ann and when the Ann reached Ecorse a United States marshal and a posse of citizens hailed her. The Patriots aboard the Ann ignored the hail and as a stiff breeze filled her canvas, the Ann passed on down the river. A number of smaller boats joined the Ann and she landed at Gibraltar with at least 300 people aboard. Later that same evening a party of sixty men from Cleveland led by J.T. Sutherland arrived on the steamer Erie. The group of Patriots hatched a plot to capture Fort Malden in Amherstburg.

File:Fort Malden, Amherstburg, Sept 2010.jpgFort Malden in Amherstberg in 2010

Their plot didn’t play out the way they had planned. At Amherstburg,  loyal Canadians waited for them and cut the halyards of the leading schooner Ann with their first volley. The schooner drifted aground at Elliotts Point  and all on board were captured or killed. Colonel Prince and his men took part in this rout.

The Patriots would attempt again to invade Canada in February with equally disastrous results.  J.H.C. Forster’s Painting of the Battle of Fighting Island, February 25. The Patriots would be routed and would give up their efforts to capture Canada across the Detroit River.

Image result for patriot war amherstburg photo

For a more complete account see Kathy Warnes, “Downriver and the Patriot War- 1838“, Definitely Downriver.

John C. Carter, “Patriot Chronicles: The Battle of Fighting Island“, Windsor Star, February 2, 2014.

The Patriot War along the Michigan-Canada border : raiders and rebels / Shaun J. McLaughlin.  Charleston, SC : The History Press, 2013.

To free upper Canada : Michigan and the Patriot War, 1837-1839 / by Roger L. Rosentreter. Thesis (Ph.D)–Michigan State University. Dept. of History, 1983. 237pp. 123 767 THS Also available online to the MSU Community.


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